Top tips for keeping your dog safe in the car

November 25th, 2014

Each year in Australia more than 5000 dogs are injured or killed in auto-related accidents, for a variety of reasons including inefficient restraint or no restraint at all. To highlight the dangers of driving with dogs in the car, the Purina Petlife Roadie team has launched the Dogs in Cars Safety Week with top tips for keeping your dog safe in the car.

According to a crash test conducted by NRMA Insurance, even at a collision speed of below 20 km/h, an unrestrained pet, sitting in the back seat, can become a dangerous projectile. It can hit the dashboard with enough force to cause serious injury to the dog, driver and other passengers.

“You wouldn’t drive without buckling up your child, and your dog is no different. Securing your pet can save their lives and yours,” said Nestle Purina PetCare Ambassador and emergency and critical care veterinarian, Dr Lisa Chimes.

“A properly harnessed dog is a must, not a maybe,” she said.

We’ve brought together tips from Purina about how to best keep your dog safe in the car while on the road this summer.

  • Just like kids, pets are safest in the back. A dog in the front can distract the driver, and in a crash, the force of the air bags may fatally injure even large dogs. And never drive with your dog in your lap!
  • Not all restraints are created equal, with some not designed to withstand the force of sudden stops or turns, and clipping your usual dog lead to a seat belt won’t prevent your dog from being propelled in a crash.
  • By law, dogs must be restrained in the back of a ute, or other open vehicle or trailer. If a dog is not secured with a short lead, that allows him to reach the sides, then he may easily become tangled in it, fall or jump out, causing a potentially fatal injury. If they are riding in the back, remember you must protect your pet from the elements.
  • Putting his head out the window may expose the dog’s sensitive eyes, ears and nose to harmful particles of dirt and dust, which can cause infection. He also runs the risk of bumping into objects.
  • Kids aren’t the only ones who get bored and restless. Dogs too need frequent breaks. Try to stop every two hours for water, a toilet break and a short walk. On alternative stops, let your pet have a run if possible and a sniff of the area for interest’s sake, but don’t let him overheat. Be sure your dog is safe when in a strange place, especially in high traffic areas. Keep him on the lead or in a secure fenced place, which permits dogs off lead.
  • Dogs can rapidly dehydrate and suffer from heat stress during the warmer months, and the inside of cars heat up quickly. Never leave a pet unattended in a car, no matter if the weather is hot or cold.
  • Zen-out zone: Tailor the length of the journey to your dog’s personality and how much he can handle comfortably. If your pet is nervous in the car, try spraying lavender or Adaptil, a pheromone which may calm him down and also helps with car sickness. Some dogs react well to calming music, and often closing the windows against strange loud noises zipping by and putting on the air-conditioner may soothe him to sleep.
  • Your dog responds to your moods. If you stay cool and collected in the car, your dog will be a relaxed traveller. If you get angry or anxious, he may become frightened and stressed. So keep calm and drive on, remembering to speak to him encouragingly from time to time to keep him happy and secure.
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